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Initial Interest Confusion

Definition
initial interest confusion allows for a finding of
liability where a plaintiff can demonstrate that a consumer was confused by a defendants conduct at the time of interest in a product or service, even if that initial confusion is corrected by the time of purchase;

Grotrian v Steinway & Sons (July 9, 1975)

Grotrian v Steinway & Sons


Misled into an initial interest, a potential Steinway buyer may satisfy himself that the less expensive Grotrian-Steinweg is at least as good, if not better, than a Steinway. Deception and confusion thus work to appropriate defendant's good will. This confusion, or mistaken beliefs as to the companies' interrelationships, can destroy the value of the trademark which is intended to point to only one company.

Mobil Oil Corp. v Pegasus Petroleum Corp.

(May 4, 1987)

Judge MacMahon found a likelihood of confusion not in the fact that a third party would do business with Pegasus Petroleum believing it related to Mobil, but rather in the likelihood that Pegasus Petroleum would gain crucial credibility during the initial phases of a deal. For example, an oil trader might listen to a cold phone call from Pegasus Petroleum--an admittedly oft used procedure in the oil trading business--when otherwise he might not, because of the possibility that Pegasus Petroleum is related to Mobil. the district court's concerns focused upon the probability that potential purchasers would be misled into an initial interest in Pegasus Petroleum. Such initial confusion works a sufficient trademark injury.

Brookfield Communications, Inc. v. West Coast Entertainment Corp (April 22, 1999)
Nevertheless, West Coast's use of "moviebuff.com" in metatags will still result in what is known as initial interest confusion. Web surfers looking for Brookfield's "MovieBuff" products who are taken by a search engine to "westcoastvideo.com" will find a database similar enough to "MovieBuff" such that a sizeable number of consumers who were originally looking for Brookfield's product will simply decide to utilize West Coast's offerings instead. Although there is no source confusion in the sense that consumers know they are patronizing West Coast rather than Brookfield, there is nevertheless initial interest confusion in the sense that, by using "moviebuff.com" or "MovieBuff" to divert people looking for "MovieBuff" to its web site, West Coast improperly benefits from the goodwill that Brookfield developed in its mark.

Criticism of the Initial Interest Confusion Doctrine


Likelihood of confusion not required Justification for protecting trademark

Initial Interest in the Philippines